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Mueller Report’s Unwritten Chapter: Why Russians Were Courting Trump World

Mueller Report’s Unwritten Chapter: Why Russians Were Courting Trump WorldPhoto Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyThe Mueller report answers lots of questions but leaves one big one lingering: Why were so many Russians so eager to ingratiate themselves with Trump World?The report is in one sense a story of meetings, pitches, and introductions that were entertained but ultimately unfulfilled. “In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offers” of Russian help, “while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away," the report says. In any case, no one broke the law with a criminal conspiracy. Special counsel Robert Mueller reaffirmed the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russian government directed an online campaign of hacking and trolling to help Donald Trump in 2016. What’s less clear are the intentions of the many Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign offline and whether they were well-connected covert emissaries of the Kremlin or just hucksters trying to latch onto the coattails of a potential president.  Parsing the motivations of the various Russian supplicants is difficult in part because many of them were a mirror image of their counterparts in Trump World: D-listers in their own political hierarchy for whom the line between state policy and personal gain is unclear. In previous court filings and in the special counsel’s final report, prosecutors wrote that the FBI believes Konstantin Kilimnik, a former partner in Paul Manafort’s consulting business in Ukraine who had worked for the Soviet army as a translator in the 1980s, has “ties to Russian intelligence.” Kilimnik held a Russian diplomatic passport as recently as 1997, and a number of his former associates relayed their belief that the dual Russian-Ukrainian national was, at least at some point, a spy.Kilimnik, the report reveals, received not just a single briefing from Manafort on Trump campaign polling and messaging strategy in August 2016 but continuous updates via text messages from Manafort’s aide Rick Gates. In turn, Kilimnik passed along a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort himself recognized as a “backdoor” to recognizing Russia’s de facto annexation of rebel-held parts of the country. Prosecutors concluded they could “not reliably determine” why Manafort passed along the polling data. Viewed in one light, it certainly can appear as though Kilimnik, a former intelligence officer, was a mere cutout for Manafort to pass Trump campaign information to the Russian government. But prosecutors couldn’t determine what Kilimnik did with the information, and both Manafort and Gates suggested an alternate explanation for the exchange: money.Manafort had run afoul of Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian oligarch, when an investment fund  he tanked lost Deripaska millions and prompted a lawsuit. The report says Manafort had been trying to get back in his good graces ever since he’d taken a job at the Trump campaign. At the Aug. 2, 2016, meeting where Manafort had raised polling and fielded a peace plan, he also discussed the possibility that Deripaska could drop the lawsuit filed after the collapse of the investment fund. Kilimnik, in that sense, was Manafort’s way to kiss up to Deripaska again.Deripaska’s deep pockets and litigiousness may have drawn Manafort’s focus, but he’s more than just a money man. The Trump administration sanctioned him in 2018 for acting as a representative of the Russian government. His aide, Victor Boyarkin, who the report says ferried messages to Manafort via Kilimnik, is a former GRU officer whom the Treasury Department sanctioned for “providing Russian financial support to a Montenegrin political party ahead of Montenegro’s 2016 elections” shortly before Russia allegedly tried to pull off a coup in the country. Deripaska’s interest in Manafort may have not been just money either. In January 2017, the report says Manafort traveled to Madrid to meet a Deripaska aide and discuss “recreating [the] old friendship” between the two men but also “global politics.” Manafort sent an email to Trump’s incoming deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, when he got back to the U.S. three days later about “important information” he had picked up “on my travels over the last month.” Manafort claimed it was about Cuba; the special counsel’s office couldn’t say whether that was true. In any case, no one appears to have followed up.Not all of the Russians pitching the Trump campaign had sinister backgrounds in the spy world.When the special counsel’s office charged Michael Cohen with lying to Congress, it offered the tantalizing detail that he had met with someone who promised “political synergy” from the Russian government and the ability to set up a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and then candidate Trump. Stripped of his anonymity, synergy man seems a far less impressive operator. Mueller’s final report identifies him as Dmitry Klokov, the director of public relations for a Russian electrical transmission company who had once been a spokesperson for a former Russian energy minister. If he could’ve set up a Putin meeting, he didn’t try very hard—Cohen dumped him after a few phone calls.  Or Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016. The Trump side of that meeting’s intentions were obvious enough from Donald Trump Jr.’s exclamation of “I love it” when Veselnitskaya claimed that she had dirt on the Clintons compliments of the Russian government. Her hints at government sources have since been borne out by an indictment in New York that alleges that she lied about ghostwriting correspondence for Russian officials to send to their American counterparts. And her clients—wealthy Russians who’ve had money seized on corruption charges—have interests that dovetail directly with one of Moscow’s most pressing foreign policy priorities: the removal of sanctions against Russian nationals and companies. So was she representing her clients at that meeting or the broader interests of the Kremlin? Mueller doesn’t say, but the bait she offered—unsupported allegations about money laundering she couldn’t connect to Hillary Clinton—was far short of tempting. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here



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Reports: Alaska Airlines flight forced to land early after 'belligerent' passenger lights cigarette

Reports: Alaska Airlines flight forced to land early after 'belligerent' passenger lights cigaretteAn Alaska Airlines flight was forced to land early on Wednesday after a "belligerent" passenger lit a cigarette, according to reports.



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Second survivor of Parkland shooting dies in 'apparent suicide', reports say

Second survivor of Parkland shooting dies in 'apparent suicide', reports sayA second survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting has died, police have confirmed. The Coral Springs Police Department was quoted in US media as saying the student had died in an “apparent suicide” on Saturday. Sydney Aiello, who was a student at the school when the shooting occurred, died last Sunday.



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Reports: Boeing will add warning light to aid pilots after Ethiopian 737 Max crash

Reports: Boeing will add warning light to aid pilots after Ethiopian 737 Max crashThe warning light will become standard equipment. Previously, it was an option



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Ethiopian Airlines Denies Reports That Pilot in Boeing 737 MAX Crash Was Not Properly Trained

Ethiopian Airlines Denies Reports That Pilot in Boeing 737 MAX Crash Was Not Properly TrainedThey were prepared to fly a Boeing 737 Max 8, the airline said



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Gaza-Israel Tension Defused as Vote Nears, Israel TV Reports

Gaza-Israel Tension Defused as Vote Nears, Israel TV ReportsThere was no confirmation from Israel, Kan reported. An Isareli government spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, and there was no official confirmation from Gaza. In a sign Hamas wasn’t interested in a further escalation, the weekly Friday protest against Israel that’s been going on for nearly a year was called off.



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Top Mueller prosecutor to leave Russia probe: reports

Top Mueller prosecutor to leave Russia probe: reportsOne of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s top prosecutors is leaving the Department of Justice, according to a National Public Radio report on Thursday, possibly signaling the end of the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. Andrew Weissmann is departing the Special Counsel’s Office to teach at New York University (NYU), the NPR report said, citing two sources close to the matter. A spokesman for Mueller, whose team has been investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign, had no comment on the reports.



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Canadian man behind mosque massacre appeals sentence: reports

Canadian man behind mosque massacre appeals sentence: reportsA Canadian man sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of six worshippers at a Quebec mosque in January 2017 has launched an appeal, local media reported Friday. Alexandre Bissonnette was convicted on February 8 to life imprisonment for the murders, the deadliest attack on a Muslim place of worship in the West. In their appeal at the Quebec courthouse, Bisonnette’s lawyers argued that Judge Francois Hout had imposed “an illegal punishment, manifestly unreasonable and not indicated in ordering 40 years imprisonment before being eligible for parole,” according to the public Radio-Canada.



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India signs $3 bn submarine deal with Russia: reports

India signs $  3 bn submarine deal with Russia: reportsIndia has signed a $ 3 billion deal to lease a third Russian nuclear-powered submarine for 10 years, giving Delhi a boost in the Indian Ocean against arch-rivals Pakistan and China, media reports said. The deal — which according to the reports took months to negotiate — comes as tensions run high between India and Pakistan following their biggest standoff in years, and as Chinese influence grows in the region. A defence ministry spokesman declined to confirm the agreement to AFP but the reports said that the submarine, the third India has leased from Russia, would be delivered by 2025.



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Reports: NKorea rebuilding structures at rocket site

Reports: NKorea rebuilding structures at rocket siteNorth Korea is reportedly restoring facilities at its long-range rocket launch site that it had dismantled as part of disarmament steps last year. The development came after a high-stakes nuclear summit last week between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump ended without any agreement. South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported Wednesday that the country’s spy service gave such an assessment on the North’s Tongchang-ri launch site to lawmakers in a private briefing Tuesday.



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